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The second day of walking these sparse-wooded mountains the climb has me thinking through my teeth. No biting wit when you're working this hard. Talk comes out like stumbling.
I'm breathing all I can and behind me Tom complains that I'm hogging all the air. He says he's turning blue. "Is this sadness or oxygen depletion?" I praise the draft from the valley that really seems to boost us. "This should cheer you. Be thankful for the push." He says that with our faces turned away we're breathing in the lee. "The wind is pushing all the air right past us." The grade steepens. Our talk clamps down.
the hiker's clenched jaw